January 17, 2017

Temporary injunction against Caddo leader remains in place

ANADARKO, Okla. – A temporary emergency injunction against a claimant leader of the Caddo Nation will remain in place for at least a few more days.

On March 25, Ronald McGee, a judge with the Court of Indian Offenses at the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Southern Plains regional office, overruled a motion from Brenda Shemayme Edwards to dismiss an injunction that prohibits her from conducting business on behalf of the tribe, including spending any government funds or grants.

Re-elected as chairwoman last summer, Edwards was subject to a recall petition within weeks of taking office. Since then, the tribe has had two factions claiming to be its legitimate authority, with one administration, currently led by Anthony Cotter, working out of the Caddo Nation complex and another, led by Edwards, working off-site.

The injunction request stems from a March 10 Caddo Tribal Council meeting affiliated with the Cotter government. Twenty-one tribal citizens – one more than the constitutionally-required minimum for quorum -- signed off on bringing a case forward to the Court of Indian Affairs.

The two governments have passed conflicting resolutions concerning the Court of Indian Affairs’ relationship with the Caddo Nation’s affairs. The Cotter administration has granted the court jurisdiction while the Edwards administration has filed paperwork to have the tribe removed from the court’s oversight.

“I’m not convinced that the date the dispute arose…should determine whether this court has jurisdiction,” McGee said before a standing room only courtroom. “It’s clear to me that you can’t take jurisdiction away after its been granted.”

An evidentiary hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday at the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Anadarko agency. Citing agency overreach, Edwards filed a motion for a temporary restraining order with the Western District of Oklahoma to block the injunction, but a decision had not been given as of press time.

With the temporary injunction extended as written, an estimated 55 people did not receive paychecks Friday, March 28. Since being removed from the complex six months ago, Edwards has continued to pay tribal employees who have remained loyal to her administration. The Cotter administration has replaced them, citing job abandonment.

“This is a time-sensitive matter,” McGee said. “My heart goes out to people who might have to go a week without pay, but I’m not going to alter Judge (Phil) Lujan’s order.”

The internal turmoil has placed the tribe’s self-governance contracts in danger of potentially being revoked, with the Bureau of Indian Affairs labeling the tribe a “high risk” recipient in December.

A hearing about the status of those programs is scheduled for Tuesday.